“I wanted to be on the stage”, this was the first ambition of Ruth Allchurch, managing director of PR agency of Cirkle, and although she hasn’t ended up acting, she has found a career her teenage self would have approved of. Allchurch says: “Dramatic was my middle name and the perceived glamour of the stage and love of plays generally was what seduced me. If someone had explained what PR actually meant then, I think I would have been reassured that it wasn’t that dissimilar to acting. Selling ideas, telling authentic stories and performing different roles are complementary to both professions!”
Allchurch decided on a career in PR because she liked the variety it offered and she also was charmed by the people in the industry who are “diverse and interesting“, Allchurch adds: “PR played to my strengths and I could see a clear career progression ahead of me. That is what excited me the most.”
As soon as Allchurch had set her mind on a career in PR, she clocked up some work experience within a charity over her summer holidays and then set about finding out about graduate traineeships: “They were quite thin on the ground, 15 years ago, unlike today, but I found one or two to apply for. It was the first year that Shandwick Consultants (as it was then) began its graduate trainee programme and after I had heard Alison Clarke (the president of Weber Shandwick, Asia Pacific at that time) speak at a PRCA event, I was inspired to join the world’s largest PR agency. I received the application form, which I then filled out studiously and after a hairy moment when I thought I had accidentally thrown it away and lost every chance of becoming their first grad trainee, I then found myself down to the last two. After an assessment day and despite not having all the criteria they were looking for, I convinced them to take me on! It proved to be the most fantastic springboard into the profession.”
Since then Allchurch’s career has been varied: “I’ve done in-house and consultancy, large networked agency and small independent – I’ve worked with great, inspiring leaders and not-so-great leaders – but every experience has led to the next one and I’m very grateful to be where I am today, running a fantastic agency like Cirkle that just goes from strength to strength.”
Allchurch says she is particularly happy to be back in the agency world, saying that it is “great to be back at the coal face. My nearly eight years client side were invaluable, which I don’t regret a moment, but I was ready to spread my wings and advise other clients on the power of PR and inspire young people to join and stay in the profession.”
PR is going through interesting times right now, and Allchurch is particularly inspired by the opportunities this presents: “I have felt for a few years now that PR is going through its most exciting time as an industry. We have a voice around the board table and more disciplines than ever are fighting to enjoy a piece of the pie. PR has never been taken so seriously and this is only set to increase as companies realise the importance of brand reputation and saliency with consumers and stakeholders.”
This is why Allchurch is keen to encourage other people to join the industry, and offers this advice to anyone thinking about PR as their future: “PR is a rewarding career choice – the more you put in, the more you will get out. In a way, there are no rules – there will always be an agency out there to best suit you so don’t give up until you find it!”
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